The Pros and Cons of Living in Sweden: Reasons to or not to Migrate

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I lived and grew up in the Philippines, so moving to Sweden was definitely a huge culture shock for me. I’m used to the warm weather all year round, so the cold winter months were really difficult for me at first!

Sweden is a wonderful country to live in. There are pros and cons of living in Sweden, so it’s important to know what they are before you decide if this is the right place for you. Maybe you’re just curious about life in Scandinavian countries, or maybe you’re planning on moving there soon. Either way, read on for some pros and cons of living in Sweden!

pros-and-cons-of-living-in-sweden

I moved to Stockholm, one of the major cities in Sweden, in 2018. I’m not going to lie; there are some pros and cons of living in Sweden for foreigners like me. It took time getting used to the Swedish culture and the weather, but I’m happy with my decision to move here & my everyday life in Stockholm.

Overall, I have a pretty much good experience living in Sweden, and I also enjoy working in Sweden.

Fun facts about living in Sweden

  • Language: Swedish is the native language, but English is widely spoken
  • Currency: Swedish Krona (SEK)
  • Capital city: Stockholm
  • Largest cities: Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö, Uppsala   
  • Swedish passport is one of the most powerful passports in the world in 2021 (along with the Nordic countries)
  • Sweden is one of the best countries to live in (Quality of life)

What you should know before moving to Sweden

Before moving to Sweden, here are some of the social norms and things that you need to know! Some were pretty new to me when I moved here.

  1. Personnummer or personal identity number is needed to receive healthcare services, open a bank account, sign contracts, or purchase anything online. Think of it as a pass to get the benefits of living in Sweden. 
  2. Sweden is a cashless society. Only a few shops accept cash! 
  3. High taxes but you get your money’s worth! For example, you get access to almost-free healthcare and free education, paid parental leave, and many more
  4. Some businesses close down in July because of summer vacation. The vast majority usually travel and it’s normal to take five weeks vacation during this time.
  5. Job titles are not necessary. People will address you by your name.  
  6. You can drink the water straight from the tap
  7. You need to take off your shoes when indoor! Same in the gyms in Sweden. You need to bring your indoor shoes. 
  8. Be on time.
  9. You can only get alcohol content exceeding 3.5% by volume from the government-controlled alcohol store, Systembolaget
  10. Laundry in Sweden is a big deal! I’ll tell you more about it below. 

Want to know more? Here’s a bigger list of things you should know before moving to Sweden! If you already arrived in Sweden, and you don’t know what to do next, then check out my guide to help you get started after moving to Sweden.

Cost of living in Stockholm

The most frequent questions I got about living here are:

  • How much does living in Sweden cost?
  • How expensive is living in Sweden? 
  • Is living in Sweden expensive? 
  • Is Stockholm expensive?

Everyone has different living expenses, but the average estimated monthly costs of a single person in Stockholm are around 10.000 SEK without rent.

Related post: Are you curious to know if living in Stockholm is expensive or not? I created a detailed post about the cost of living in Stockholm & and what our monthly expenses look like.

Pros and cons of living in Sweden

There are pros and cons of living in Sweden as an expat. Sweden is not perfect, like any other country, but, so far, living in Stockholm has been bliss.

I haven’t lived in other bigger cities in Sweden; so, I couldn’t compare it. Before relocating to Sweden, I already have an idea of what to expect, so I am prepared.

It is important to note that Sweden has a higher quality of life than many other countries, so there are pros and cons to both staying where you are currently living or moving to Sweden.

Life in Sweden is a lot different than in the Philippines. It is slow-paced here, and you will love to adapt to the Swedish lifestyle.

Pros of living in Sweden

I can give a hundred reasons to live in Sweden, but here are the things I love about living in Stockholm.

  • Lagom
  • Fika
  • Long vacation days 
  • Reliable public transportation
  • Work-life balance
  • Gender equality 
  • Well-functioning social welfare system
  • Vegan-friendly 
  • Recycling 
  • People in Sweden speak multiple languages

Lagom

One thing I love about life in Sweden is lagom which means “not too much, not too little” or all things in moderation.

It is a Swedish philosophy for living a balanced, happy life. Lagom is probably why Sweden is one of the happiest countries in the world.

I could not understand it at first until I started to learn more about the Swedish lifestyle. Lagom pushed me to find my current level of contentment and appreciate what I have.

Fika

Swedes love coffee.

Fika is part of the Swedish tradition or lifestyle where friends, family, or colleagues meet for coffee or tea and eat something sweet.

In the Philippines, we have something similar called merienda where we take a coffee break with other people.

Long vacation days 

Life in Sweden seems too good to be true, especially for someone who lived in the Philippines. Before relocating to Sweden, I already read about long vacation days (often 25 days, but some companies give 30 days), and it is normal for people to be away from work for at least four weeks, especially during summer.

Because winter in Sweden is long, everybody goes out and travels during the summer, and goes where the sun is! Swedes celebrate the longest day of the year called Swedish Midsommar.

It would be such a waste to stay indoors while the weather is good (which is rare)!

Aside from getting a paid vacation, you get extra pay as well every time. Imagine getting more money in your free time!

Reliable public transportation

The Pros and Cons of Living in Sweden: Reasons to or not to Migrate 3

Somehow embarrassing story: during my first few months here, when people asked me how I like living in Stockholm as an expat, my first response was about reliable public transportation!

I mean… in the Philippines, I would need to spend 4 hours commuting to and from work even though I can go home within 30 minutes if there’s no traffic!

Anyway, I am only living in Stockholm; so, I don’t how it is in other cities. But, public transportation in Stockholm is reliable and accessible.

You can purchase a transportation card with unlimited access to the metro, commuter train, railway, tram stations, buses, and even boats!

Work-life balance

I already had an idea about the work-life balance before relocating to Sweden. It is one of the reasons why I want to move to Sweden.

  1. 480 days of parental benefit for one child. 
  2. Minimum of five weeks of paid vacation
  3. Paid sick days (with small deduction).
  4. The healthy boundary between work and life 
  5. 40 hours work per week, but flexible  

It depends on your industry, but there are companies here that don’t require you to speak Swedish. If you want to learn Swedish, you will also get an allowance that covers a portion of the fees.

Related: Life and Work in Sweden

Gender equality 

Sweden is one of the most equal countries. This is very much evident since I started living in Stockholm (and comparing it to the Philippines).

The pay gap between men and women in Sweden is getting closer. But, men still get over 11% more compared to women.

Also, it’s normal to see fathers pushing prams everywhere!

The well-functioning social welfare system

The Social Welfare System in Sweden is one of the best (best, not perfect) in the world.

In terms of social benefits, you see where the taxes are going!

Healthcare

The Swedish healthcare system is not 100% free, but the maximum amount you have to pay out of pocket is 1.150 SEK per year. That’s almost free care!

If you are working in a company, you will also get health insurance where you can avail of private healthcare.

You can also see a doctor using an app like Kry or Doktor.se and get treated for a variety of medical issues.

Dentists are expensive though!

Social benefits

  1. Monetary support for children up to 16 years old
  2. 480 days of parental leave per child 
  3. Special benefits to care about sick and disabled children
  4. Housing allowance 
  5. Benefits if you are not able to work 
  6. Unemployment benefits 
  7. Retirement 
  8. Benefits for anyone who can’t get a reasonable standard of living 

If you are curious about the Swedish Social Insurance, you may visit Försäkringskassan.

Education

In Sweden, education from ages 6 to 19 is free. As far as I know, Sweden also provides free lunch for students! You will also get free college education within European Union for public institutions.

Recycling 

In the Philippines, recycling is a foreign concept. Although it is encouraged, it is still hard to practice recycling there.

Before relocating to Sweden, I had to check how to recycle since this concept is new to me. In my first apartment, the recycling station is around 15 minutes walk; so, I had one cabinet full of recyclables!

  1. Papers 
  2. Newspapers, flyers
  3. Plastics
  4. Colored glasses 
  5. Clear glasses 
  6. Light bulbs 
  7. Can and bottle deposit system 
  8. Etc.

People in Sweden speak multiple languages

The main language in Sweden is Swedish, but you can easily communicate to the majority of people in English.

Cons of living in Sweden

Of course, there are cons to living in Stockholm! These are my personal opinion, so it might be different from others!

  • Long and dark winter
  • High taxes and higher cost of living
  • It’s difficult to make friends
  • The law of Jante (Jantelagen)
  • Housing-shortage 
  • You need to get medical appointments much in advance 
  • Finding a job could be a challenge for foreigners 
  • Government-controlled alcohol stores
  • Laundry in Sweden 

Long and dark winter

The Pros and Cons of Living in Sweden: Reasons to or not to Migrate 4

Coming from a tropical country, dealing with winter is new to me. Winters in Sweden are harsh, long, and dark!

In my first year of living in Stockholm, I took advantage of summer (I arrived in spring). I didn’t understand why people in Sweden love to go outside and stay in the sun until I experienced the darkness that they were talking about.

Only 6 hours or less of sunlight is not fun!

Winters make me feel more homesick while living abroad and it’s difficult to function when it’s dark all day.

High taxes and higher cost of living

You pay high taxes in Sweden, but the positive side of this is you get a well-functioning social welfare system. If your goal of moving to Sweden is to make & save money, then Sweden might not be your best choice!

Sweden has also one of the most expensive costs of living. The cost of housing, food, and transportation is high compared to other countries.

It is not easy to make friends

People can be cold or distant as well, and it takes time to get along and befriend a Swede. But, once you get close to them, you will see they are fun and friendly.

Small talk is not a thing here, but you will always find yourself talking about the weather!

If you just moved to Sweden, you can join Facebook groups to meet people.

  1. Stockholm | Girl Gone International
  2. The Newbie Guide to Sweden Group

Housing-shortage

You need to start looking for apartments before relocating to Sweden because there is a huge lack of rental apartments, especially in Stockholm.

I would say finding an apartment in Stockholm is one of the struggles of my life in Sweden. You will rarely find a long-term contract. Usually, it is six months with the possibility of extension.

I have more detailed information about how to find an apartment in Stockholm. And, if you are planning to buy an apartment in Sweden, I have another post where I shared about our experience on buying an apartment in Stockholm.

You need to get medical appointments much in advance 

While it is an advantage that Sweden has universal healthcare, sometimes you need to get your medical appointments much in advance!

I know some people needed to wait around three months for their appointment. If it is an emergency, getting an appointment wouldn’t take that long!

Laundry in Sweden

One thing I noticed about living in Stockholm is the laundry rooms are a big deal! I am not kidding. If you are an expat in Sweden, I’m sure people have brought up the laundry rooms.

Most apartments in Stockholm don’t have a washing machine or dryer in the bathroom, so you need to book an appointment for your building’s laundry room.

The laundry room is free, and you get 3 – 4 hours to use it. Don’t mess this up because you won’t have an option. Sometimes, it’s difficult to book a room!

Tip: Before signing a contract, check if there are a washing machine and dryer in your apartment. If none, check if the laundry room is in the same building.

I went to see an apartment before and found out that the laundry room is in a different building!

Learning Swedish

Learning Swedish helps you integrate while living in Sweden as an expat. Sure, English is widely spoken, but Swedish is still the first language here.

I had a few attempts to study Swedish consistently, but my mind is not there yet! In Sweden, there are SFI (Swedish for Immigrants) courses that you could enroll at.

I like learningswedish.se more because I can study Swedish at my own pace and it’s free!


Sweden is a beautiful country. The people are friendly, the environment is clean and there’s plenty of opportunity for work. However, life in Sweden isn’t all sunshine and roses. There are pros to living here but also cons that you should be aware of before making your decision about whether or not to move here permanently.

If you want more information on the pros versus cons when it comes to living in Sweden, let me know!

Don’t forget to prepare your moving abroad packing list so everything will go smoothly!

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6 comments
  1. Thank you so much dear for this useful info. Me & my husband is going to move soon at Sweden. Your article helped me a lot to understand many things despite I knew most of them, still I feel something supporting to set a mind according different challenges. Once again thanks a lot for sharing your experience and useful tips for foreigners.
    Stay Blessed.. 🙂

  2. I have lived in 4 countries in Europe. I believe the more countries you have lived the more difficult will be for you to accept Sweden.

    I just could not make it. 3 years in Sweden, and I did not find my place. You did not mention on your comments racisms (not sure if you experienced that) but I found Sweden extremely racist. People just do not mix. White are friends or of whites, black with black and so on.

    Also depression is very common and they think is because the weather but I also have heard Swedish complaining that they feel very lonely.

    Many old guys go to Asia to find young women. There is a lot of double standards.

  3. Hello ,I’ve always wanted to live in europe especially in sweden but I’m a hijabi and African and I was born in canada I wanted to know if they maybe gave jobs to expats I want to work in medical career and how are they with ppl that are foreigners. How do they treat them. I’m in a new country but this country that I’m in isn’t that welcoming to any type of foreigners.

    1. Hi,

      When I first came to Sweden, my bank contact was a hijabi woman.
      And when I went to the hospital, the doctor was hijabi too.
      And I have many engineers who are hijabi and work in big companies.

  4. Dear Karen,

    Thank you for this nice articel!

    My husband and I moved to Sweden last year. First we planned to live here only for 6 months, but due to the pandemic, we decided to buy a house and start a life in the countryside.

    We definitley love the swedish lifestyle – nevertheless it seemed strange in the beginning.
    As we lived in Berlin, Germany, before it was a huge cultural difference. Now we are getting used to it and are happy to welcome back spring & summer!

    When I recall the whole last year, then the winter time from Nov- Feb. was really hard. The darkness and cold temperatures were not easy. How do you experienced it?

    Best,
    Valeria from IvyGreen

    1. Hi Valeria,

      I love your blog and I can’t wait to read more about life in the countryside!
      As someone who grew up in a tropical country, the darkness and cold temperatures were definitely not easy! I love spring & summer though. But autumn and winter are difficult for me to get used to.

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